Meeting 4 – 9/10/20


  1. Challenges and learning since we last met
  2. Discuss the ‘Acknowledgement of Racism’ element of the ‘Agenda for Action’
  3. Membership of the Group
  4. Plans for the next meeting


1)  Challenges and learning since we last met:

The key topics we discussed were:

  • The Resonance Framework produced by Justice Funders:
  • In developing anti-racist plans or strategies, how far should we listen to affected voices outside our organisation before finalizing the plans – eg should external stakeholders (People of Colour and BAME-led organisations) be involved in deciding what actions our organisation should take?  Is listening enough – or should it be associated with a real sharing/shift of agency? 
  • How to move this agenda forward in our organisations – particularly in relation to the speed at which progress can be made internally?  Particularly the sense that we might feel that we are not doing enough personally to move it forward quickly enough.  The Group acknowledged that we are all at different stages with our boards – dependent, in part, on how engaged, informed and motivated the members of our boards are.  The Group also talked about our individual sense of responsibility but the fear of “screwing it up” – ie failing to persuade our board to engage with this agenda so that the opportunity for change is lost, and it may take several years before the board is willing to talk about it again. 
  • Each of us has an amount of “capital” with our Board that we need to use judiciously – but we are unlikely to be the sole influence on our boards in relation to this issue.  We and our foundations are situated in a point in time (eg the Black Lives Matter movement / #CharitySoWhite’s calls) and in a context (eg what ACF is doing with its Stronger Foundations DEI pillars).  One way forward is for us as individuals (and in this Group) to think about how we can use these external factors to support/encourage our boards to want to engage with this issue (carrots and sticks).
  • The Group discussed what a vision for being an anti-racist organisation might look like.  One approach is to not to try to create a fixed set of objectives or end point – but instead to say that the organisation and its people will have a deep understanding of the issues (eg of racial justice) and self-awareness of how they relate to the organisation’s work and that there will be a continued process of engagement and reflection on the issues.  This will then inform the evolution of the organisation’s strategy and its individual decisions (eg about governance, resource allocation, etc).
  • The Group discussed the issue of diverse voices expressing expectations for how charities (including foundations) should behave on issues of racial justice – but those voices and expectations may not all be the same.  If each of our organisations has a clear and public position on racial justice, it will guide our responses to those voices and expectations.

2)  Discussion of the ‘Acknowledgement of Racism’ element of the Group’s ‘Agenda for Action’:

2.1   The Group’s draft ‘Agenda for Action includes the following:

“As a group of white foundation chief executives, our understanding of these calls for urgent change is summarized in the following agenda for action for ourselves and our peers:

  1. Acknowledgement:  Publicly acknowledge racism in your organization and within the wider sector and your responsibility for tackling it.”

2.2  To aid the discussion about how this action might work in practice, some questions had been circulated prior to the meeting:

First Section – Discussion Points:

  • How far do the group feel we should look to the past and acknowledge racism in our organisations?
  • What are we acknowledging?
  • Does this feel different for each organisation?
  • Is there a difference between younger and older charities?
  • What would be a reason not to acknowledge the past and our plan for the future?

Second section – Discussion Points:

  • What form should/could acknowledgement take?
  • How do we want to share the positive change we are making in our organisations to the people we serve?
  • How do we open ourselves up to scrutiny on this?
  • How can trustees engage with this and what risk are we highlighting for our organisations if we don’t do this?
  • Do we have common ground to create a joint acknowledgement of racism across our organisations?

2.3   The Group discussed the need to acknowledge both the racism of the past (eg where many foundations’ wealth came from) and the racism of the present (eg foundations currently being predominantly white organisations situated in and benefitting from a society which is characterised by white supremacy).  There is also the issue of how decisions made in the past continue to have inequitable impacts in the present – and how we can challenge ourselves and our organisations to understand that and then change.

2.4   Some foundations are likely to find it difficult to look critically at their past because it can challenge the foundation’s identity and self-image (held by the board and staff) of its past and present.  Foundations may also be concerned about revealing things from the past which are a risk to the foundation’s reputation in the present.  But for some, if not all, foundations it is possible that external voices will demand transparency and an acknowledgement of the source of foundations’ wealth.  It is therefore in the interest of foundations for them to have done their own analysis on the source of their endowments, and to have reached a position on what that means for their present and their future.

2.5   Acknowledgement comes at multiple levels:

  • Personal (eg our lack of knowledge or understanding; the impact of our behaviour;  our personal responsibility for creating change, etc).
  • Organisational (eg source of endowment).
  • Societal. 

2.6   A key challenge for us taking this work forward in our organisations is the readiness of our boards to discuss, reflect and act.  Every foundation will be starting from a different point of readiness to be able to engage on this issue.  How can we as individual leaders, and us as a Group, move this agenda forward in that context – in a way which is challenging but non-threatening?  How can we create a fertile ground for learning and reflection – particularly on racial justice – within our organisations?

2.7   For individuals to engage constructively with this issue, framing is important – eg “We know that individually and collectively, we are not immune from the various forms of racism that pervade our society” vs “We are all inherently racist”. 

2.8   Is it enough to acknowledge (eg the issues of racism associated with the source of a foundation’s wealth) or should there be an apology for it (and if so, to whom), and should there be recompense/reparation (and if so, to whom and how much)?

2.9   How can we publicly support the foundations which are doing important internal work on racial justice and how can we amplify it?  As individuals we can do this (eg through social media) even if it draws attention to our own foundations which might not yet be doing similar work.  How can we share the work of this Group more widely?

ACTION:  We will revisit this issue once we have decided whether we will expand the Group – to be discussed at the next meeting.

3)  Membership of the Group:

In the context of the recent survey by #CharitySoWhite (which asked for information about ally groups or networks), the Group agreed to reconsider the membership of the Group at the next meeting.

In discussing whether to widen the membership of the Group we will consider:

  • the role of the Group’s ‘Agenda for Action’ (eg is the Agenda what we would be asking potential new members to sign up to taking forward?).
  • whether to change the name of the Group.

4)  Plans for the next meeting:

The main topic will be discussion of the ‘Reflection and Learning’ element of our ‘Agenda for Action’.

We will also:

  • finalise the ‘Agenda for Action’.
  • choose a new name for the Group.
  • decide whether to expand the membership of the Group.
  • discuss if and how to engage with other groups/organisations.

The next meeting will be on Friday 6th November 2020 from 1.30pm to 3pm

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